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Full text of "Feeding Wildlife in Winter"

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FEEDING 
WILDLIFE 
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CONSERVATION 
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FISH and WILDLIFE SERVICE/ 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
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http://archive.org/details/feedingwildlifeiOOgran 



UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 

Harold L. Ickes, Secretary 

FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

Ira N. Gabrielson, Director 



Conservation Bulletin 13 



FEEDING WILDLIFE 
IN WINTER 



BY 

WALLACE B. GRANGE 

Formerly Cooperative Agent, Section of Food Habits 

Division of Wildlife Research 

Fish and Wildlife Service 




UNITED STATES 

GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 

WASHINGTON : 1941 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C. 



Price 10 cents 



WILDLIFE NEEDS man's help in winter; this fact 
has long been recognized. The sheaf of grain 
that in some European countries is raised on a pole 
for the birds at Christmas time symbolizes man's re- 
sponse to the needs of wildlife; but something more 
than a symbol, something more than an offering at a 
single season, is required. AYinter feeding, to be 
really helpful, should be well planned and sustained. 
Food should be readily accessible before it is needed, 
and the supply should never fail. Methods of winter 
feeding for wildlife that actual experience has proved 
to be valuable are discussed in this bulletin, and it is 
hoped that an increasing use of these methods will 
aid in conserving interesting and useful species of 
wildlife. 



IV 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 



CONTENTS 



Page 

Need for winter feeding 1 

Organizing a winter feeding campaign 2 

Treatment of predators 4 

Upland game and other land birds 4 

Natural winter foods and their shortage 5 

Feeding stations 6 

Emergency feeding 11 

Waterfowl 13 

Small mammals 13 

Cottontail rabbits 13 



Page 

Small mammals — Continued. 

Snowshoe hares 14 

Squirrels 14 

Big game 15 

Range deterioration and its causes 15 

Food-emergency danger signals 15 

Emergency foods and feeding 16 

Facilitating browse reproduction 18 

Planning for the future 19 



NEED FOR WINTER FEEDING 

WINTER. IS A critical period for many species of wildlife. 
Coverts then grow smaller in area and, without foliage, afford 
less protection. Available food supplies also diminish in both quantity 
and quality. The species of wildlife that hibernate or migrate do 




Figure 1. — Cover and food scanty ; winter feeding needed. 

not suffer from these changes, but by midwinter the upland game 
birds, many songbirds, some small mammals, and, more rarely, big- 
game mammals are often crowded into restricted patches of cover and 
forced to subsist on scanty and undependable foods (fig. 1). 



Note. — This bulletin supersedes Farmers' Bulletin 1783, issued in 1937 by the U. S. Depart- 
ment of Agriculture — a contribution of the Bureau of Biological Survey, which was consoli- 
dated in 1940 with the Bureau of Fisheries to form the Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. 
Department of the Interior. 



2 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

As a result, starvation may kill these creatures (fig. 2) or so weaken 
them that they become easy victims of predatory animals or more 
susceptible to cold, disease, and other misfortunes that do not menace 
well-nourished individuals. Well-fed game birds, for instance, rarely, 
if ever, die from exposure to cold, even in the most severe winter 
weather, and if food is abundant in and near good cover they have little 
to fear from natural enemies. Food, which is always a limiting factor 




Figure 2.— Journey's end. (New York Conservation Commission photograph.) 

in determining the distribution and abundance of wildlife, becomes of 
the utmost importance, therefore, in times of excessive cold, sleet, 
deep snows, and blizzards, especially for birds. Yet many coverts 
are seriously deficient in available winter foods, and in such cases 
man can come to the rescue with winter feeding. Nature's lack 
offers a challenge that he should be quick to accept. His aid can 
frequently be an individual matter, but organized feeding campaigns 
often produce more lasting benefits. 

ORGANIZING A WINTER FEEDING CAMPAIGN 

All winter feeding campaigns require work and effort, and regardless 
of the type of organization, preparations should be made well before 
feeding becomes necessary, as the test of the efficiency of winter 
feeding comes when roads are drifted, traffic paralyzed, and all 
ordinary transportation tied up. Well-planned organization will 
facilitate feeding activities at such times. In the past, much winter 
feeding has been ineffective because bad weather had not been antici- 
pated far enough in advance or because preparations had lagged. 
Feeding operations should be under way before the usual critical 
period arrives. In some instances, liberally provisioned caches handy 
to feeding stations should be made far in advance of the ordinary 
storm periods. 

A town or city game association sponsoring winter feeding may well 
form a definite organization to raise funds, solicit labor, and in general 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 3 

obtain the cooperation of hunters, Boy Scouts, women's clubs, busi- 
nessmen's associations, the local press, outing-goods stores, grain- 
elevator operators, feed-mill proprietors, rural mail carriers, railway- 
section workers, and others. 

Having obtained such cooperation, the organization should delegate 
certain individuals who are well acquainted with local farmers to 
make arrangements for wholesale, systematic feeding, because any 
feeding campaign to be successful must have the cooperation of the 
resident farmers. Farm boys and men are best equipped to feed wild 
game in winter, not only because of their place of residence but also 
because of their general interest in wildlife and their intimate knowl- 
edge of the many forms. They do most of the winter feeding, in most 
cases simply for the enjoyment and occasional sport they derive 
from having the birds on their properties. 

Although in many cases it is not necessary to pay farm owners 
either for services or for grain to be used in feeding birds, there can 
be no question that reasonable reimbursement for the grain, at least, 
will go far toward establishing better feeling between farmers and 
sportsmen. 1 When arrangements are made to leave standing or 
shocked corn or to feed threshed grain, payment certainly should be 
made. If hunters make the production of game profitable for the 
farmer, even in a small way, it is reasonable to suppose that he will be 
willing to leave a half-acre thicket here and there for cover and food 
and that he will take an interest in increasing his game stock. If, 
however, hunters are unwilling to assume some of the cost of produc- 
tion, farmer-sportsman controversies may be accentuated and the 
game birds, left without cover and short of food, will continue to 
decrease in numbers. 

At present game birds and animals often constitute a liability rather 
than an asset on farms, as their very presence subjects the farmer to 
annoying and sometimes destructive trespass by hunters and where 
winter concentrations of game birds occur, the birds may eat more 
grain than the individual farmer can afford to spare, even though he is 
willing to donate a reasonable supply. Where these concentrations 
are of semimigratory species, which may have left the property before 
the advent of the hunting season, there is often real cause for com- 
plaint. It is useless, under such circumstances, to urge farmers to 
feed game for the implied purpose of furnishing sport to strangers, and 
arrangement for reimbursement must be made ; the sooner the better. 

Sportsmen's organizations are generally willing to purchase grain 
for the birds. Farmers invariably take a great interest in feeding the 
ordinary numbers of game birds found on their properties and are glad 
to assist in promoting their welfare. In unusual cases, however, 
where the burden becomes severe, the game commission, sportsmen's 
clubs, or humane societies can be approached for assistance. 

In some communities winter feeding contests are practicable if 
given sufficient publicity through local papers. These contests may 
be sponsored by State conservation departments and supervised by 
game protectors or wardens, or they may be carried on by 4-H clubs, 
Smith-Hughes groups, or in schools. Awards should be made on the 
basis of the methods of winter feeding employed and the extent and 
effectiveness of the contestants' feeding activities. Such competition 
is most effective when organized on a large scale. Contests have a 

1 See U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers' Bulletin 1759, Game Management on the Farm. 



4 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

broad educational value but are less likely to produce permanent 
results than are personal interviews, the direct purchase of materials 
and services, and definite local organization. 

Game wardens assigned to this kind of duty create good will and 
respect, thus frequently obtaining better local cooperation in other 
phases of their work. Rural mail carriers have at times been in- 
structed to assist in feeding game along country roads. Section 
crews on railroads also sometimes carry food to localities difficult of 
access, if the food is furnished. Other ways of getting the work done 
may be found in many communities, and all possibilities should be 
kept in mind. 

TREATMENT OF PREDATORS 

Hawks and owls are often seen in winter coverts that shelter game 
and rodents. Without further evidence, however, their mere presence 
should not lead to the assumption that they are seriously depleting 
the game species. Where there are good coverts and food is plentiful, 
birds suffer little winter loss from predators. With the exception of 
the large, rare goshawk and the smaller Cooper's hawk, predaceous 
birds ordinarily need not be eliminated from the vicinity of feeding 
stations. Indeed, such forms of wildlife add a great deal of animation 
to the wintry scene, giving pleasure to the nonshooting public, the 
importance of which hunters should be willing to concede. There is 
no excuse for slaughtering snowy owls, red-tailed hawks, screech owls, 
and similar species of beneficial tendency. Where such slaughter 
does occur in the name of sport or for its reputed advancement, those 
interested in nature in general are fully justified in seeking to prevent 
it. It is well to recall that birds of prey destroy mice that otherwise 
might easily eat more than enough grain to feed a covey of quail 
through a storm period. 

UPLAND GAME AND OTHER LAND BIRDS 

Because of so many adverse factors, the supply of game birds is 
being reduced faster than it is being replenished by natural means. 
Measures to facilitate replenishment are essential, and every effort 
to correct environmental deficiencies should be made. Winter feeding 
is one of the most practicable measures, and it is urgent that interested 
persons, whether on farms or in towns and cities, provide adequate 




Figure 3.— Winter feeding of small birds. 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 5 

winter feeding in their communities. Most starvation of game birds 
is cumulative, the result of short rations over considerable periods 
rather than for a few days only. Consequently the situation will not 
be much relieved unless feeding also is carried on over rather extended 
periods. Intermittent feeding accomplishes some good at certain 
times, but it is not so effective on the whole as systematic feeding. 

Food for many valuable small winter birds is provided incidentally 
by winter feeding activities for game birds. Persons generally in- 
terested in nature, however, may well pay particular attention to 
small birds, especially to the tree-inhabiting species, including downy 
woodpeckers, nuthatches, and creepers, which by means of suet and 
other food, can frequently be attracted to dooryards and orchards 
that they would not otherwise visit. Chaff, screenings, table scraps, 
or other waste thrown on the ground or snow (fig. 3) will feed many 
ground-loving species ; or scratch feed or other grains or seeds may be 
provided at little expense. 

NATURAL WINTER FOODS AND THEIR SHORTAGE 

The chief natural winter foods of upland game and other land birds 
are weed seeds, dried fruits and berries, and to some extent buds and 
persistent green foliage. Where plenty of aspen, birch, and alder are 
available, the ruffed grouse and other birds that eat many buds find 
subsistence throughout the winter. Herbage for birds is scarce in 
winter, but partridgeberry is a kind that stays green, and white clover 
and chickweed, also relished, stand up well against the cold in protected 
places; wintergreen, hardy, but also of harsher texture, is frequently 
eaten. Acorns, beechnuts, and hazelnuts are valuable as long as 
they last and some will remain until spring unless the wildlife popula- 
tion is so great as to consume them earlier. Juniper, greenbrier, 
chokeberry, sumac, holly, Virginia creeper, sour gum, bearberry, 
privet, cranberrybush, and snowberry are fruits that hang through- 
out the winter. Seeds most available at that season include those of 
the coniferous trees, hophornbeam, birch, alder, partridge-pea, black 
locust, boxelder, and ragweed. 

By and large, however, the combined supply of these foods available 
to the birds in winter is decidedly deficient on the ordinary farm, and 
many farms in intensively cultivated sections are virtually barren of 
any natural food that would be of use to wildlife. 

Among weed seeds, those of ragweed are of great importance to 
birds in stubble fields, pastures, and fallow lands; but the supply is 
generally limited, and frequently the seeds are buried under snow. 
The same is true of the seeds of several other weeds: by midwinter 
the supply is usually buried or exhausted, especially in sections that 
are intensively farmed. This winter food supply for the birds can 
be made more abundant, however, if harvesting machines are set to 
leave long, high stubble and more of the weeds and if stubble fields 
that are near coverts are left unplowed over winter. 

Some weeds that are of the utmost importance in carrying the birds 
through the winter are considered pests by the farmer, but he should 
remember that by their destruction of insects during the crop seasons 
birds will repay him for any consideration he gives them in winter. 
Furthermore, in spring and summer the surplus weeds are ordinarily 
removed by cultivation. Leaving weeds in suitable places causes 

200259°— 41 2 



5 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

the farmer little, if any, extra work and may save the lives of many 
birds. 

Dried fruits, mast, and berries are scarce on most farms. Further- 
more, they are frequently covered up, are out of reach, or are distant 
from good protective cover. For the benefit of wildlife it is desirable 
to have extensive hedgerows of wild fruit- and seed-producing plants. 
Buds are a staple winter food for ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse, and 
green foliage seems to be important for Hungarian partridges. Wher- 
ever possible, however, buds and foliage should be supplemented 
by grains of proved utility instead of placing entire reliance on an 
uncertain abundance of persistent berries and fruits. 

FEEDING STATIONS 

All-winter feed patcnes and permanent shelters where grain can be 
placed make the best winter feeding stations for birds, but in emer- 
gencies, feeding can be done wherever birds are found, including rail- 
road rights-of-way, hard-packed roads, haystacks, pits dug in the 
snow, or any natural windbreak or shelter. The important thing is 
to have the feed where the birds will find it. 

Feeding stations should be so placed as to afford easy access to good 
protective cover (fig. 4). If established for quail, the station should 











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Figure 4.— Feeding station accessible from good cover; ring-necked pheasants and bobwhites feeding. 
(Minnesota Conservation Commission photograph.) 

probably never be more than 75 yards from protective cover, and even 
then a strip of connecting cover or a series of patches at intervals is 
desirable. Pheasants, prairie chickens, and sharp-tailed grouse will 
no doubt range farther for food. Hungarian partridges are like quail 
in being closely localized. 

In areas where quail are abundant, one feeding station to every 40 
acres is desirable; otherwise, a station may be established near the 
thicket or wood that a covey is known to use. The same applies to 
Hungarian partridges. 

For ring-necked pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse, one effective 
station to the square mile is sufficient for wholesale feeding. 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 7 

Prairie chickens may be accommodated by one good feeding sta- 
tion to every 5 or 10 sections — that is, every 5 or 10 square miles — 
although under stress these birds cover even larger areas in their search 
for food. 

Wild turkeys also will come from a considerable distance, but it is 
best to provide feed in all the permanent winter headquarters that they 
are known to frequent. 

Little information can be furnished on the effective intervals at 
which to place feeding stations for ruffed grouse. Although these 
birds subsist well on buds, berries, fruits, and other natural foods, 
they relish grains also. 

One permanent, well-attended feeding station to a farm is a good 
goal for upland birds in general. Farmers who wish to make sure of 
holding their own stocks of birds or to attract additional wild breeders 
to their property from outside will probably find, however, that sev- 
eral feeding stations to a farm are needed. Establishing good coverts 
and giving adequate attention to their development constitute definite 
steps toward game-bird increase. 2 

Stations should be located in areas that are sheltered from drifting 
snow, wind, and sleet. They should not constitute traps, where 
birds can be cornered by cats, dogs, goshawks, or other enemies; 
nor should they place the birds at any disadvantage. Hence they 
should not obstruct flight in any direction. It is safer for the birds 
if openings are left from which they can escape in case of attack. 

Best results will be obtained by placing shelters in natural game 
coverts, rather than by attempting to entice game into barnyards or 
too far into the open. In any event it is inadvisable to feed domestic 
poultry and game together or on the same ground, as some diseases to 
which barnyard fowls and game birds are subject are interchangeable. 

PERMANENT FEED PATCHES 

The simpler and more natural the feeding station and the less 
attention it requires, the better. Food for permanent feed patches 
that are to be effective throughout most of the winter should generally 
consist of standing, shocked, or sheaf grains. As compared with 
other types of stations, such patches have the decided advantage of 
requiring little attention. 

STANDING AND SHOCKED CORN 

There is no more effective provision for winter feeding than leaving 
standing Or shocked corn in fields near cover. The size of an all- 
winter patch of corn depends, of course, on the number of birds 
expected and the quantity of grain that will be consumed by rabbits, 
squirrels, and mice. A quarter to a half acre is probably the minimum 
size. Town and city sportsmen may purchase (and, if necessary, 
fence) blocks of shocked or standing corn for winter feed patches. 
For quail such patches should adjoin ungrazed wood lots ; for pheasants 
they should preferably be near a tamarack swamp or swale, and for 
prairie chickens, close to marshes. If there is no good cover near, 
brush-heap shelters may be provided. An ample number of these 



2 See U. S. Department of Agriculture Farmers' Bulletin 1719, Improving the Farm En- 
vironment for Wild Life ; Circular 412, Groups of Plants Valuable for Wildlife Utilization 
and Erosion Control ; and U. S. Department of the Interior Conservation Bulletin 7, Plants 
Useful in Upland Wildlife Management. 



8 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

winter-feeding stations in each community would make a material 
difference in game-bird survival. 

Standing corn. — In sections where corn matures, standing, un- 
husked corn is perhaps the ideal source of supply of winter food for 
game birds. It is most satisfactory for prairie chickens, sharp-tailed 
grouse, and ring-necked pheasants. It provides food at all common 
snow levels, the uppermost ears becoming available to the birds as the 
snow deepens. In patches of considerable size, ears may be at all 
elevations from 6 inches to 5 feet, so that some are within reach even 
when snow is deep. When there is little snow or when no ears are 
near the ground, the stalks may be broken over. Light grazing of 
standing corn by cattle will cause many kernels to fall to the ground 
where the game can get them. Overgrazing, however, should be 
avoided, and where heavy grazing is necessary, the farmer should 
temporarily fence off a corner of the field to keep the stock out and 




Figure 5.— Well-opened corn shock; prairie chickens feeding. (Wisconsin Conservation Department 

photograph.) 

preserve the corn as cover and food for the birds. The corner nearest 
thicket, woodland, or swamp is ordinarily the most suitable. Sports- 
men and individual hunters are often glad to provide labor and fencing 
materials for this purpose. Fields of standing corn, even though they 
have been harvested, often contain here and there nubbins, or poorly 
developed ears, or even good ears that have been missed. Such 
fields are of considerable service to game birds if left over winter. 

Shocked corn. — Shocked corn is possibly most effective for bob- 
whites, other quails, and Hungarian partridges. It is generally 
advisable to have the shocks within 70 yards of woodland, grape 
tangles, raspberry thickets, or other cover, although game birds vary 
in the degree of reluctance to leave such protection. Hungarian 
partridges often take feed far from any considerable cover, whereas 
quail keep close to it. If the shocks are opened up, tepee fashion 
(fig. 5), the birds can scurry inside in the event of danger from gos- 
hawks or other large enemies and can also obtain ears that would 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 9 

otherwise be out of reach. Moreover, if the shocks are not opened, 
the birds may exhaust the supply of outside ears and thus be without 
food even in the midst of plenty. At such times, squirrels dragging 
out the ears may incidentally save the lives of quail, which glean what 
the rodents drop. In sleet storms or blizzards shocks may become 
heavily coated with ice or snow, and if so, they must be cleared and 
loosened. It is important to check up on the situation regularly and 
particularly after storms. 

BUCKWHEAT 

Buckwheat has well-known value for game, especially prairie 
chickens and sharp-tailed grouse, which use it from early in the fall 
until late in the spring. It is better adapted than corn for use in 
northerly latitudes. Because it is resistant to fire in the summer, it is 
a useful planting for fire lanes in brush and forest country, where it 
can be expected to feed a great variety of wildlife. When buckwheat 
is left standing for the birds, it is well also to have a good supply of 
sheaves stacked up against the time when the uncut grain will be 
buried by snow. The patches left for the birds should probably be 
larger than corn patches left for the same purpose, as buckwheat 
seems to be even more attractive than corn and the patches will 
ordinarily be used longer. Buckwheat leaves also may be eaten 
during the growing season. 

WHEAT, RYE, AND BARLEY 

Sometimes it is possible, even late in the season, for sportsmen to 
buy standing wheat, rye, or barley very reasonably ; and in any year, of 
course, arrangements can be made in advance to have strips of grain 
adjacent to cover left uncut. A few sheaves of wheat set up in long 
stubble, which serves as moderately good approach cover, will be 
used by game birds and by many species of songbirds as well. Rye 
is useful on sandy soil and in regions subject to frosts. It will volun- 
teer the second year if the land is merely disked. Barley is accepted, 
but not especially relished, by most game birds. For this very reason, 
however, its use may be advantageous, as drain on the feed patch 
will be less until other foods have been exhausted, after which the 
patch provides an available food supply. 

MILO, KAFIR, AND OTHER SORGHUMS 

Milo, kafir, shallu (Egyptian wheat), and other sorghums are 
especially suitable for bob whites in the more southern localities and 
for scaled quail in the agricultural districts of the southwestern United 
States. 

SUNFLOWERS 

Blackbirds, goldfinches, crossbills, cardinals, and other small birds 
are especially fond of sunflower seeds. The gathered sunflower heads 
may be put out as needed, and the stalks, with a few heads attached, 
may be left for cover. 

SOYBEANS 

Soybeans are a delicacy to quail and most other upland game birds. 
They are also valuable in increasing soil fertility. Practical measures 
for making them available include planting in fallow fields, in outside 
corn rows, and next to frequented coverts. 



10 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

MISCELLANEOUS CROPS 

In the Northern States, millet, popcorn, various peas, and other 
crops are adapted for bird-feed patches; in the Southern States, cow- 
peas, sesame (benne), peanuts, lespedezas, and chufas. Clover seed 
is sometimes eaten by birds where a second crop of hay is left. Winter 
wheat will serve as green food if the snow is shoveled away. In 
general, experience and local farming practices are the best guides as 
to what supplemental foods to plant, purchase, or leave. If in doubt, 
it is better to use a variety than to depend on any one crop. 

PERMANENT SHELTERS 

Permanent feeding stations are effective over long periods if properly 
handled. Many types, requiring more or less attention, have been 
successfully used. The basis of most of them is some form of shelter 
into which grain on the cob or in the head is thrown or in which shelled 
grain is placed in a food hopper. The shelter may be as simple or 
elaborate as desired: a lean-to against a tree; cornstalks thrown over 
a brush heap; straw, stalks, or brush piled over an ordinary A-type 
brood coop; tepees; tar-paper shacks; fishing shanties hauled up on 
land; and many others. It is not so much the type of shelter that 



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Figure 6.— Lean-to with food hopper; prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse feeding. (Wisconsin 
Conservation Department photograph.) 

counts as its location and the care and constancy with which food is 
supplied. Birds do not forget places where food is abundant and will 
return to them in emergency if the supply is dependable. Large, 
roomy brush heaps with straw piled over them are especially effective 
for quail and probably will serve also for Hungarian partridges. 
Three-sided lean-tos (fig. 6) sheltering automatic wooden hoppers 
have proved successful in feeding prairie chickens and sharp-tailed 
grouse in Wisconsin and are suitable for pheasants and, in fact, for 
almost any species. The hopper can be of such size as to serve for 
short or long periods. 

A simple wire-basket feeder that may be employed for making ear 
corn available to pheasants and other birds is illustrated in figure 7. 
Stakes or poles about 1 inch thick are used for the framework and ordi- 
nary 2-inch-mesh chicken wire for the basket. The ends of the basket 
are attached by lacing the frayed ends to those of the basket proper. 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 



11 



The stakes are run through and between the loops in such manner as to 
fasten the basket securely to the supporting uprights. To make the 
feeder rigid, the uprights should be wired or nailed together securely. 
It is a simple matter to 
adapt the device for feed- 
ing in varying depths of 
snow by merely adjusting 
the uprights, if they are 
wired instead of nailed. 

Feeding shelters for 
small birds may consti- 
tute attractive features 
of the lawn or orchard; 
they may be elaborate or 
simple, as taste and time 
dictate. A rough board 
shelter on a window sill 
or in some quiet, place 
protected by shrubbery 
and trees will attract 
j uncos, tree sparrows, 
crossbills, pine grosbeaks, 
cardinals, titmice, blue 
jays, creepers, wood- 
peckers, redpolls, and 
other winter birds, de- 
pending on the region and the location of the station. Shelters may 
be provided with such food as apples, grains, birdseed, suet, nuts, 
raisins, and bread. Suet tacked or tied on posts or trees is attractive 
to the tree birds in winter and will keep fresh for weeks. 




Figure 7.— Wire basket for feeding ear corn to pheasants: a, Up- 
rights; b, bottom supporting pole; c, horizontal supports; d, 2- 
inch-mesh chicken wire; e, nail. 



PROVIDING GRIT 

Game birds have been observed to congregate on roads just after 
they have been cleared by snow plows, apparently for the purpose of 
picking up the sand and gravel thus exposed. This indicates that 
they may sometimes find it difficult to obtain ample supplies of grit 
in winter. In protracted snowy periods, therefore, it is well to pro- 
vide them with coarse sand, oystershell, ground limestone, or other 
mineral substances similarly used by poultry. 

EMERGENCY FEEDING 



Though permanent all-winter feed patches and regularly tended 
shelters provide the best means of feeding birds in winter, in emergen- 
cies almost any kind of feeding will substantially aid wildlife for short 
periods. It should be ascertained, however, that only temporary and 
not permanent feeding is needed. A common tendency is to consider 
feeding ample if grain is carried out once or twice a winter, but in most 
cases food shortages extend over weeks or even months. Then, too, 
unless stations are so placed as to be protected from winds and drifting 
snow, the grain put out in the morning may be covered and unavailable 
later. It is altogether inadvisable, wasteful, and ineffective to scatter 
loose grain upon soft snow. Feeding stations should not be estab- 
lished in such a way as to encourage the birds to congregate on main- 



12 



CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 



traveled highways, where they are subjected to mortality from fast- 
moving traffic and from poachers. 

Pits in the snow, with chunks of ice, crust, or even soft snow thrown 
up around them, are good windbreaks for open-field birds, including 
Hungarian partridges, snow buntings, longspurs, horned larks, and 
redpolls. Grain thrown on the ground on the sheltered side of these 
barriers is easily visible to the birds, but the supply must be renewed 
repeatedly, as it is likely to become drifted over. 

Natural windbreaks, such as those formed by trees, shrubbery, 
fallen logs, and stumps, southerly exposed hillsides that blow bare, 
and other areas not covered by snow may be taken advantage of in 
distributing shelled grains. A variety of species may be fed under 
grapevine tangles and in various other places that afford shelter. 

Airplanes have sometimes been used to drop bags of grain, which 
burst in falling, into coverts that otherwise could have been reached 
only with great difficulty, as in mountainous country inhabited by 
wild turkeys. 

Convenient cheap foods for day-to-day or emergency use include 
screenings from mills, threshing machines, combines, or elevators, 
haymow chaff, food-products-manufacturing wastes, and dry or fatty 
table scraps that are more or less resistant to freezing. Ordinarily 
these should be supplemented with grain. 

SHEAF GRAINS 

For use in feeding 
game birds it is occa- 
sionally possible to 
obtain sheaves ■ of 
wheat, buckwheat, 
oats, or other grains 
stored in barns for 
late threshing. Such 
sheaves can be set 
upright in the snow 
or hung by wire or 
cord from limbs of 
trees so that the birds 
can reach them by 
jumping. 

EAR CORN 

Ear corn may be 
used in any of several 
ways ; it may be hung 
on wire fences or from 
branches, impaled on 
nails driven through 
boards resting on sticks (fig. 8), put in wire-basket feeders (fig. 7), 
thrown loose in protected places, or even set up in the snow. The ears 
can be picked up easily and moved or stored, and they do not sink out 
of sight in snow so rapidly as loose grain, so that not much of the 
corn is wasted. 

STRAW STACKS 

Straw stacks frequently afford sheltered places bare of snow where 
ear corn, loose grain, haymow chaff, or screenings may be placed to 



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r- 

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fe 


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"Sp^^^^l 


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^K^^ m ~T^^~-' k ' JsSW^* 8 ""***" 










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Figure 8.— Impaled ear corn at a lean-to station; ring-necked pheasants 
feeding. (Wisconsin Conservation Department photograph.) 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 13 

good advantage. Some straw stacks also contain enough waste grain 
and weed seeds to make it worthwhile to open them up from time to 
time to expose a fresh supply. 

MANURE SPREADING 

In some sections the daily spreading of manure on snowy fields is 
common enough to be an important factor in attracting game birds 
throughout the winter, as the manure contains enough undigested 
grain and seeds to afford some food for small birds as well as for 
pheasants, quail, and Hungarian partridges. Throwing a little 
threshed grain on the manure after it has been spread on the fields 
is particularly efficacious, since on such a surface the whole grain is 
more visible to the birds and does not quickly sink out of sight. 

WATERFOWL 

Feeding of upland game birds is designed to bring them through 
periods of famine. Waterfowl are seldom confronted with such an 
emergency, owing to their great mobility, which normally permits 
them to seek new feeding areas, even at a distance Extensive arti- 
ficial feeding early in the season tends to hold the birds and prevent 
their normal migration. Late in the season, however, after the migra- 
tory instinct has ceased to be active, abnormally severe weather 
sometimes suddently cuts off the natural food supply and makes 
artificial feeding imperative. Again, in regions where there is much 
shooting of waterfowl, it is desirable also for individuals, organizations, 
or conservation officials to resort to artificial feeding in order to con- 
serve adequate stocks of ducks and geese. 

Waterfowl quickly learn where they are protected and will flock in 
to water areas of but a few acres in response to protection and a 
good supply of corn or wheat. Such a feeding program must be 
undertaken only on refuges where no shooting of any kind is permitted, 
because "baiting" in connection with shooting is a violation of the 
law. In sanctuary areas, however, feeding may serve to remove 
waterfowl, at least temporarily, from the gauntlet of the guns. Water- 
fowl feeding areas are most effective when a considerable number are 
developed in the same locality, perhaps through the cooperation of 
Audubon societies and other agencies interested in preserving ducks 
for the ducks' own sake rather than for the pleasure of having a 
shot at them. 

Corn and wheat are usually the best artificial feeding staples and 
are fed by being scattered on water that is from a few inches to 2 
feet deep for shoal-water species and up to 10 feet deep for diving 
ducks. Kice, barley, or other grains and most vegetables are readily 
taken and may serve as a welcome substitute for corn or wheat. 

SMALL MAMMALS 
COTTONTAIL RABBITS 

The cottontail probably furnishes more Americans with hunting and 
has less done in its behalf than any other game species. Hundreds of 
thousands of cottontails are trapped every year in the Midwest and 
released to restock Eastern States, and certain States are experi- 
menting with the production of the cottontail in captivity. Such a 



14 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

popular animal certainly should be given the benefit of definite plans 
for winter feeding. The best feeds for it are browse, first-quality hay 
(alfalfa, clover, or timothy), and grain. These should be placed 
only where it is desirable that the rabbits should feed. 

Good browse, such as the nonpoisonous sumacs, oak pigweed, and 
various garden weeds, will carry cottontails through the winter 
without hay or grain, if present in sufficient quantity. Browse may be 
of almost any tree, including oak, maple, poplar, birch, apple, cherry, 
and ornamental shade trees. Additional browse can be furnished in 
brush heaps built of newly cut trees. The twigs and buds are greedily 
eaten, and the brush heap provides good shelter from the elements and 
security from winged enemies as well. To provide numerous such 
brush heaps of fresh branches is one of the most practicable of all food- 
management measures for cottontails. Arrangements can often be 
made to utilize for this purpose the trimmings from pruning operations, 
both in towns and orchards. If the brush heaps are supplied with 
straw or hay, well packed in under the heap, a shelter of unusual value 
is created. 

Cottontails eat hay in quantity. Sound alfalfa is the most pal- 
atable, but almost any cultivated hay is acceptable. Some kinds of 
marsh hay are eaten occasionally, but considerable selection of the 
stems taken is evident, and the bulk of the hay is rejected. Haymow 
chaff is always attractive to the cottontail, which picks out small leaves 
and perhaps some seed from the mixture to feed on. Grains of many 
kinds also are eaten. Corn and oats are especially relished. 

An important consideration in feeding cottontails is adequate dis- 
tribution of the food, as these animals seldom concentrate. They 
localize individually to a surprising degree, so that it is desirable to 
have the feeding stations numerous and widely distributed. Stations 
should be close to woodland, thickets, hedges, brush heaps, or other 
cover, but away from orchards and dooryarcls. 

SNOWSHOE HARES 

Although the snowshoe hare is a woodland species and obtains 
most of its sustenance from bark and buds, it also relishes alfalfa hay 
and grain, oats in particular. Hay or grain feeding is necessary, 
however, only where the supply of browse is inadequate. Ordinarily, 
fresh brush heaps will fully cover the needs of snowshoe hares, and a 
restocking program might well be preceded by provision of brush heaps 
of fresh-cut branches, not only to provide food and shelter but to help 
localize the animals in the vicinity where planted. 

SQUIRRELS 

Squirrels are quite roving and because of their habit of storing food 
against a time of need are in less immediate danger in severe weather 
and famine than are many other game species. Under severe con- 
ditions of temporary food shortage, due to mast failure, or during 
prolonged periods of inclement weather, however, emergency feeding 
may at times be of prime importance in maintaining breeding stocks 
over crucial periods and in helping to hold squirrel populations to 
more uniform levels. 

Squirrels may be fed by the same methods described for upland game 
birds. A suitable food mixture includes rolled oats, peanuts, sunflower 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER J 5 

seeds, and some kind of hard-shelled nut, such as the hickory nut, 
black walnut, or butternut. 

From the long-time point of view nothing is of greater importance 
to squirrels than the planting of oak and nut trees. Provision for 
such planting may often be made through cooperation with city and 
county park boards or roadside planting commissions. 

BIG GAME 

When big game is involved the problem of winter feeding is far 
more complex than when it is a question of upland game and other 
land birds, waterfowl, and small mammals. The latter usually rely 
for sustenance upon quickly renewable sources of food, such as annual 
plants and their seeds, whereas big game must depend for its browse 
largely on perennial species of vegetation that require several years 
to mature. 

RANGE DETERIORATION AND ITS CAUSES 

Under strictly natural conditions, game-mammal populations are 
usually well adjusted to the available browse and range; if not, the 
undesirable animal surplus is removed by various natural agencies, 
so that increase is held in sufficient check to prevent outrunning the 
food supply. Special conditions sometimes arise, however, largely 
as the direct or indirect result of environmental manipulation and 
abuse by man, that permit the mammals either to increase beyond 
the replenishment capacity of the range or to so deplete the range as 
to lower greatly its game-carrying capacity. In such instances, 
winter feeding becomes essential during the interval required for ad- 
justment of the environment. Unfortunately, restoration of the range 
is usually difficult, inasmuch as the whole plant succession may have 
changed in the deterioration process. Complete restoration may 
require several decades, or, where the abuse has been great, it may 
never be achieved. 

Most big-game species in the United States tend to concentrate in 
fairly restricted wintering places. Elk in the West move into the 
valleys. Deer in mountainous country seek out sheltered areas with 
good browse. Throughout the Northern and Eastern States the 
white-tailed deer and the moose habitually "yard up" in favorable 
cedar swamps or in good hardwood browse. By restriction of the 
winter range, such localization of animals rapidly depletes the con- 
centration area of desirable vegetation, especially if there is over- 
crowding. Exhaustion of the food supply may come at a time of 
deep snow, so that the animals are not able to move elsewhere; and 
in many instances, even though change to new ground might be 
physically feasible, there is no better place available. The situation 
may thus become serious and a considerable part of the population 
succumb to starvation or attendant disorders arising from weakened 
condition. Progressive loss of weight reduces constitutional vigor, 
and when animals have lost 20 or 25 percent of their weight through 
starvation, they must receive prompt assistance or die. 

FOOD-EMERGENCY DANGER SIGNALS 

As a general thing, the following four factors largely account for the 
development of big-game food shortage, sometimes operating singly, 



16 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

more often in combination: (1) Grazing by domestic livestock, ad- 
versely affecting deer and elk; (2) appropriating valley hay lands for 
agricultural purposes, adversely affecting elk; (3) progressive lumber- 
ing of cedar and other high-grade browse trees, adversely affecting 
deer and moose over wide areas; and (4) excessive removal of such 
natural enemies as the cougar, timber wolf, and lynx, without sub- 
stituting compensatory methods for the removal of aged and surplus 
big-game animals. 

It may readily be appreciated that the correction of these condi- 
tions will rarely be simple and may involve a considerable expendi- 
ture of money. It is also to be realized that two separate problems 
are presented for solution in each such instance of food failure: (1) 
The problem of emergency feeding, by which the animals may be 
tided over winter; and (2) the more difficult matter of so restoring 
the range that emergency feeding will no longer be necessary. Beyond 
the discussion of causes already given, this bulletin must confine 
itself largely to the first problem, emergency feeding. 

Most situations of this kind, fortunately, do not appear in a single 
winter but result from causes that have been operating for several 
years. Consequently, there are numerous danger signals that the 
game manager can read well in advance of the actual emergency. 
One of these is the establishment of a "deer line" in woodland tracts, 
that is, the disappearance of the lower vegetation up to a level that 
deer can reach by standing on their hind legs, a common method of 
obtaining browse feed. By the time the deer line has been formed, 
the range is already far deterioriated. It is important, therefore, to 
note the beginning of this overgrazed condition, and keen observers 
will be able to detect an incipient deer line. Another indication of 
range deterioriation is the eating of certain relatively unpalatable 
species of browse in quantity. In the Southwest, the extensive 
browsing of pinon and juniper usually indicates food shortage, and 
in the North, severe damage to balsam, beech, and some other species 
indicates a similar condition. 

EMERGENCY FOODS AND FEEDING 
HAY AND GRAIN 

Good-quality alfalfa hay is the best single emergency big-game 
feed that is ordinarily available in quantity. The animals relish this 
hay and on it are able to maintain themselves in good weight. Where 
alfalfa is not available or is too costly some other high-grade hay, such 
as clover or native upland hay, may be used. 

Great care should be taken to avoid if possible the use of hay of 
poor quality. If that is the only kind obtainable, it should be sup- 
plemented with such grains as are available without too great cost. 
Recent experiments by the New York Conservation Department with 
white-tailed deer conclusively demonstrate that eastern deer cannot 
maintain themselves on a diet of ordinary marsh hay, sometimes 
called beaver meadow hay. Deer eat this hay only reluctantly, 
even when it is green. A good test to apply to the hay is whether 
domestic livestock will do well on it alone without supplementary 
grain feeding. If cattle will not thrive on the hay, there is no reason 
to expect that deer or elk will do so. There is danger also that 
rough, coarse feeds will induce necrotic stomatitis and lead to serious 
losses from that disease. 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 



17 



In feeding hay to deer or elk it is desirable to place it up above the 
snow and to establish a number of feeding places rather than to pile 
it all in one large heap. The objective should be to avoid drawing 
large numbers of the hungry animals to any one feeding site, where 
trampling, bunting, and fighting might be encouraged, with resultant 
injuries to does and fawns. Unless the hay can be kept from under 
the feet of the animals, considerable wastage will result. Too much 
should not be fed at one time. 

An inexpensive feeding rack (illustrated in fig. 9) may be made of a 
series of poles, about 2 inches in diameter, set up in the form of saw- 




— 6 



Figure 9.— Pole rack for emergency feeding of deer: a, Uprights (2-inch poles); b, ground log for anchorage; 
c, cross pole to which uprights are nailed; d, nails; e, horizontal top support; /, end poles. 

bucks. To insure good anchorage the poles should be driven into the 
ground. If this is not feasible because of frozen earth or for some other 
reason, they should be nailed near the ground level to an anchorage 
log. The uprights should be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. If they are 
placed closer the animals are likely to get their feet caught and may 
be severely injured. The racks should be kept full of hay so that deer 
will not be tempted to thrust their heads between the poles in the sides. 
Hay may be stacked for future use, but in such cases the stacks 
must be fenced to prevent consumption of the hay in advance of the 
emergency. 

BROWSE FROM FELLED TREES 

The most natural feed for big game in winter is browse. Where it 
is practicable to provide a sufficient quantity of good browse by felling 



18 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

such trees as white cedar, birch, aspen, maple, cherry, or hemlock, 
the browse will be relished by the animals and will keep them in 
thrifty condition. As a surprising quantity of browse is consumed by 
wild ruminants in cold weather, the supply made available should be 
rather larger than might be thought necessary. 

Care should be taken not to use trees that are more valuable for 
other purposes and not to waste the forest growth. Trees selected for 
cutting should be overmature or defective, and proper provision for 
their utilization should be planned. It is sometimes possible to center 
wood-cutting and farm-logging operations in areas in which the deer 
need feeding, thus furnishing browse at relatively little expense. If 
this is done, it is of course of the utmost importance to see that the 
brush is not burned as it is piled, as is sometimes done on areas managed 
primarily for forestry, but only after the deer-feeding emergency has 
passed. 

DEER-FOOD CONCENTRATES FOR INACCESSIBLE LOCALITIES 

To overcome the hay-transportation difficulty presented in moun- 
tainous sections, New York State has developed a concentrated deer 
food, consisting of 45 parts of cane molasses, 55 parts of ground soy- 
beans, and 50 parts of chopped alfalfa (parts by weight), mixed in 
25-pound hard cakes, stored in tin, and taken into the vicinity of the 
deer yards in fall, even though not utilized until midwinter. 3 These 
cakes withstand weathering, are very palatable, and maintain the 
deer in good condition in localities where the feeding of hay would be 
attended with insuperable difficulties. Concentrates of this type 
have their place in game management under present-day conditions, 
but are, of course, strictly emergency rations. Concentrates to 
meet the requirements of other species can no doubt be prepared. 

FACILITATING BROWSE REPRODUCTION 

Many of the emergencies necessitating deer feeding in the Northern 
and Eastern States occur in areas of extensive mature forest growth, 
where available browse is at a minimum^ Emergency feeding in such 
circumstances may aggravate the situation from year to year by in- 
creasing the deer herd, especially the number of superannuated does in 
States having a one-buck law. Obviously it is desirable to take such 
measures as will bring the age composition of the herd more nearly to 
its normal condition, but in addition it is quite essential to "manufac- 
ture" new browsing areas for the remaining herd. There are three 
major methods by which the reproduction of suitable species of browse 
can be facilitated — (1) clean-cutting patches of mature woodland, (2) 
burning patches of mature woodland, and (3) reforestation. The 
method to be used in a given place will depend on local conditions. 

CLEAN-CUTTING PATCHES OF MATURE WOODLAND 

Where mature hardwoods extend over large areas, patches of the 
woodland may be cut off clean, perhaps a 5- or 10-acre patch in every 
40 acres in selected parts of the range. By restricting the cutting to 
places where the wood and logs can be utilized, it can generally be 
accomplished at moderate cost and without waste. Clean-cut patches 

s Details of preparation technique are available in New York State Conservation Department and New 
York State College of Agriculture Bulletin 1, Food Preferences and Requirements of the White-tailed Deer 
in New York State, January 1935. 



FEEDING WILDLIFE IN WINTER 1Q 

of hardwood usually spring up quickly to sprouts or brush, which not 
only are of immense value to deer but also find favor with ruffed 
grouse and other woodland birds. How many and what size patches 
should be cut will depend on the seriousness of the browse situation, but 
enough should be cut to make certain that browse reproduction will be 
more than sufficient for the planned increase of the deer. 

REFORESTATION 

The practice of reforestation with valuable big-game food trees is 
not yet widely followed in the United States, but it is one that must 
receive greater attention if serious future environmental complications 
are to be avoided. Forest planting programs, forexample, that have 
as their objective the establishment of a single species of pine or a small 
group of species over extensive areas, inevitably will produce a stand 
in which the deer population will be held permanently to small numbers 
or in which food shortages will become of annual occurrence. Variety 
in the forest growth is essential to the welfare of deer. Consequently, 
if deer are a consideration, it is absolutely necessary to avoid the solid 
planting of extensive areas to one species of tree. This can be done 
by omitting from the solid-planting program a 40-acre patch in each 
quarter section and planting some of these patches to deer-food species. 
The size of the patches may vary with the locality and the local factors. 

Where some such provision for deer is not effected, deer damage to 
pine reproduction is likely to increase unduly, especially to such 
species as Norway pine, which the deer find reasonably palatable. 
In fact, such damage in reforestation units where adequate consider- 
ation has not been given to the food requirements of deer may lead 
the inexperienced observer to the conclusion that game management 
and forestry are incompatible land uses. This conclusion is not 
suggested, however, where the reforestation methods employed retain 
some semblance to those of nature. 

White cedar is recommended above almost all other species as a 
deer-food tree, wherever soil, climate, and moisture are suitable. 
This common tree, sometimes called arborvitae, is commercially 
valuable for fence posts, shingles, and excelsior, so that its inclusion 
in reforestation programs is quite justifiable aside from its value to 
game. It is also a particularly, graceful tree and cannot but add 
beauty and variety. It is readily established, grows in moist soils 
of varying acidity, and is thoroughly adapted to use in a number of 
the Northern and Eastern States. 

In planning the game range so as to avoid the necessity of annual 
emergency feeding, provision should also be made to include an ample 
supply of noncommercial trees, sometimes unfortunately called "weed 
trees. " Aspens, birches, pin cherries, dogwoods, serviceberries, iron- 
wood, wild plum, crab apple and a great many other trees are valuable 
game-food species. The policy of systematically eliminating these 
species by thinning operations is a direct contributing cause to the 
necessity of winter feeding of deer and is a further cause for abnormal 
damage to plantations of pines. 

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE 

When a winter-feeding campaign has been successfully carried out 
one year, it is important that preparations be made for an even more 



20 CONSERVATION BULLETIN 13 

effective one the following year. After satisfactory sites for winter- 
feeding stations have been decided upon the value of the stations may 
be enhanced in many cases by improving the adjacent cover. For 
example, stations that may be rather openly situated can be made 
more serviceable by planting a patch of sweetclover for cover, by 
fencing-in a corner of a pasture or grazed wood lot, or by planting 
shrubs or trees. The farmer or sportsman who has carried on active 
winter feeding in severe weather appreciates the scarcity of adequate 
game coverts. 

With farming and other industrial operations constantly encroach- 
ing on its former domain, wildlife, a valuable natural resource, needs 
all the assistance man can lend if it is to be preserved. The provision 
of food during periods of stress, particularly in winter, is an important 
aid; yet it will be realized that as compared with cover restoration 
it is but a small contribution to the welfare of the various species. 
Winter feeding, therefore, should be considered as but one part, 
possibly a minor one, of a larger program of year-round assistance to 
wildlife that involves many other factors also, including cover resto- 
ration, protection from natural enemies, and adjustment of the total 
kill to the available supply. 

o